June 22, 2020

Random spin

From being mediocre

When I was earlier in my clinical years, I was asked to teach clinical medicine to first year psychiatry residents. This was to ensure that they were comfortable with the management of common medical conditions even though their focus was the mental health of the patient. 

I was not good, not even close. And I felt that there was little interest on the part of the residents to learn Medicine. Looking back I can see clearly that I was a large part of the problem.

I did not have confidence in my clinical skills. I was still in my learning phase. And I was working outside my comfort zone at that time. It is no wonder that the residents were uncomfortable learning from me. I was as tense as a tightrope.

To giving value

Of course, I have learned since then that it is possible to build one's confidence. I have been fortunate to work at the VA Medical Center in VA Boston. The system and its leaders have mentored me to bring out my strongest qualities. 

I have been able to teach using the methods I had ingrained in me through my Alma Mater, the American University of Beirut. I did my medical school training and Family Medicine Residency at the AUB. Teaching was through asking questions... and waiting for the answer. It is as if it were yesterday when we would sit in the conference room - quaking - waiting to see which patient's chart the Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics would choose for the weekly rounds. It was not that long ago that the Chief Surgical Resident would hand me the chalk to come up to the board to explain a surgical complication. 

That training has come full circle. Now when I teach residents and students, I am relaxed; my focus is on introducing concepts. And how to integrate those concepts into clinical practice. Learners early in their career can look up information on their own from a myriad of apps and articles. My value is in helping young clinicians increase their confidence in their thinking skills. 

I appreciate the power of strong mentorship; I have been fortunate to have that; I would like to give back whenever I can. 

How I plan to teach Life's Chemistry

I will have short courses that build on each other. Each course will focous on three areas: 

First, present multiple examples that demonstrate one concept.

Second, describe and explain the concept.

Third, present alternate examples or unusual variations of the concept using questions.

What I hope will happen is that the first section will generate curiosity; the second understanding; the third  will generate a bit of a struggle to try to extrapolate from the first set of examples to the second set.

It is through this struggle that true understanding of the concept will emerge. It is the struggle that brings growth and confidence in thinking through problems. 

About the author 

Juman Hijab

Juman has been in clinical practice as a physician for more than three decades. Her lifelong interest has been in the chemistry of life.

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